Getting grounded

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Farm Fest 2013 brings crowds eager to unearth knowledge

By Alice Du Pont

Several hundred people attended Florida A&M University’s fourth annual Farm Fest 2013 at the Research and Extension Center and Farm, June 8, six miles north of Quincy on the Bainbridge Road.



“We are so happy to have this many people attend. This has become a very popular event and the attendance grows each year,” said Dr. Lawrence Carter, director of special outreach activities in the College of Agriculture and Food Services. The event was sponsored by the Cooperative Extension Program.


“The goal of Farm Fest is to promote public awareness of the full scope of the ‘land grant concept’ in education, which embraces teaching, research and extension (outreach) at FAMU. The FAMU College of Agriculture and Food Services supports a multi-billion dollar agriculture and food sciences industry by producing graduates to serve in these global professions. Local farmers, producers and families in the Big Bend and surrounding counties were invited to attend the event which was educational and entertaining,” wrote Stephanie Lambert in a press release about the event.


Saturday’s event was hands-on and featured presentations of agro-forestry, container gardens, horticulture, small livestock, urban markets, canning and vegetable production. There was also a tasting porch where visitors could sample various fruits, vegetables and chevron (goat meat) dishes.


Workshops and demonstrations on topics including growing herbs and hydroponic production systems were conducted by Gerald Hubbell, JMAK farms of Gadsden County and Dr. Alex Bolques, assistant professor and an extension agent in Gadsden County.


At his farm west of Quincy, Hubbell grows about 10 varieties of peppers from sweet to hot, cucumbers, tomatoes, Swiss chard, arugula, lettuce green squash and yellow zucchini, all of which are grown in water.


Tinia Torres, along with her 12-year-old sister, Elonie and mother, Myrna, were in the cabbage garden examining butterflies and insects that were destroying the tender vegetables. 


“I’m really enjoying this, said the Orlando-high school senior. She will spend the next two week on the FAMU campus in the “Agri-Discovery” Program.


A few steps away Jeremonica Geri was teaching the basics of canning in jars to a group of women who wanted to know if it was a good idea to buy canning jars online. According to Geri, it is fine to by jars online if the tops come with them. Otherwise, she said, consumers might have a problem matching lids with jars.


Kimberly Davis and Christy Cardall from the FAMU Center for Water and Air Quality explained that healthy watersheds are necessary for people, plants and animals.


“The watershed is a given area of land that drains into one particular body of water from a connected series of water bodies such as creeks, stream, rivers and lakes” Davis said.


Using a tabletop model, the women demonstrated why the quality of water in Quincy is the best in the region. Drinking water here is filtered through a layer of clay, which makes the percolation process longer but cleans more thoroughly.


Just after a lunch of grilled chicken, potato salad and baked beans, the graduation ceremony was held for those who completed the Master Farmer and Goat/Sheep Program. To receive certification, participants must complete an intense two-day classroom and hands-on course on the campus Tallahassee and at the Research Center and Farm.

A diverse group of 20 received certificates, including Joseph Bollard of SB Farms in Malone, who was also named the 2013 Most Innovative Farmer in Florida, and the youngest person to complete the training was 17-year-old Phillip Dean of Tallahassee. Soon-to-be sheep farmers from Madison County, father and son team Jake and Joey Hartranft also earned certificates.


“We’re getting ready to go into sheep farming. We’ve gotten the land ready, and all we have to do is fence in the remainder of the property. There is a 12-step program to growing sheep, and the first step is to get yourself educated, so that’s why we’re here,” said Jake Hartranft.


A group of 20 high-school seniors made the trip to Farm Fest 2013 from Baton Rouge, La. The students are part of AgLeadership, a summer program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and South University, which promotes careers in agriculture.


Throughout the morning and afternoon, guided tours were given of the farm, which included a look at the Veterinary-Tech building, the goat shed and the opportunity to get a closer look at pigs, cows, horses, goats and donkeys while learning what it takes to raise healthy small animals.


Those who registered were invited to take home samples of peppers, yellow squash, carrots and eggplant from the research center garden.